We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Friday, February 26, 2016


Michael Sherman, Raquel González, and Michael Brandenburg

As part of Opera America's Emerging Artist Recital Series, The Glimmerglass Festival Young Artists Program presented three of their young artists who are moving on to starring roles in this summer's festival.  Raquel González will portray Mimi and Michael Brandenburg will play her Rodolfo. We would have enjoyed a duet from Puccini's La Bohéme and sat in our seats when the program ended waiting for an encore that never happened.

Please don't think that we were left unsatisfied!  On the contrary, it was a most fulfilling recital and we enjoyed hearing two substantial voices. Regular readers will recall how excited we get when we have witnessed a young artist's growth within the conservatory environment, particularly when they rise to greater heights after graduation.

Such was the case with this radiant soprano. Her lovely instrument has broadened and deepened without losing a drop of lustre or brilliance. She chose her own material and chose wisely.  One can usually tell when a singer loves the song. The trio of songs by Joaquín Turino are rarely heard and they are marvelous.

"Olas gigantes" gave collaborative pianist Michael Sherman an opportunity to create a storm in the piano and Ms. González conveyed the poet's desperation. Perhaps we are prejudiced but it seems to us that Juilliard graduates are exceptionally well trained in the art of textual interpretation and drama. Their gestures are always apt and motivated by the text.

"Tu pupila es azul" is a gentle song and Mr. Sherman's piano created gentle waves that matched the delicate coloring of the singer. We loved the typically Spanish turns in the vocal line. In "Besa el aura" we were dazzled by her control of the melismatic passages.

She also showed her skill with Russian, having chosen two delightful songs by Rimsky-Korsakov. In "The Nymph" the text speaks of a mystical being who does NOT kill the admiring sailor.  What a relief!  Not at all like the German "Lorelei".  Perhaps our favorite song of the evening was "Dream on a Summer's Night", a maiden's sexual awakening tenderly and passionately sung with beautiful arpeggios in the piano.

Tenor Michael Brandenburg, like Ms. González, has won many honors and prizes and has an instrument of considerable size. He sang three songs by Rachmaninoff, all repertory standards, with a great deal of muscle. "Spring Waters" seemed particularly apt after the torrential rains New York recently experienced! Our favorite is always "Oh, never sing to me again" which fills us with the pain of longing.

But we enjoyed his singing more in a set of songs by Joseph Marx, a composer we always enjoy.  We wonder why more singers do not choose his works for their recitals. Mr. Brandenburg's German is quite good and we particularly enjoyed "Selige Nacht" which gave the piano some interesting and gorgeous runs.

Both singers exhibited fine English diction and confirmed our opinion that Broadway music is far better in a recital than academic songs in English that tax our preference for beauty. Ms. González was lovely in Jerome Kern's "The Song is You" from the 1932 Music is in the Air, while Mr. Brandenburg was compelling in "Beloved" from Sigmund Romberg's The Student Prince.

We also got to hear the two singers in duets--"Suzel, bon di" from Mascagni's lesser known opera L'amico Fritz, which we would dearly love to see produced in its entirety.

A final duet "And this is my beloved", from the 1953 musical Kismet, was adapted from music by Alexander Borodin by Robert Wright and George Forrest. It was glorious and a fine way to end the recital.

The two voices blended beautifully in harmony and we predict that their Bohème this summer in Cooperstown will be a most worthwhile one.

(c) meche kroop

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